HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

« December 2006 | Return to RapidRecon | February 2007 »

January 31, 2007

On Baker, Syria Negotiations and 'Escalation'

Former Secretary of State and Co-Chair of the Iraq Study Group James Baker has once again called for negotiations with Syria, this time to leverage diplomatic power in order to "get them (Syria) to get Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist." Insistant on edging over the cliff of delusional table-talk between diplomats and terrorists, he continued and further insisted that the United States also "could get them to stop arming Hizballah," as well.

At some point, it must be recognized soberly by the various American lot who maintain that they somehow can insert themselves as the solution to Middle East woes that there will be no peace between Hamas, Hizballah, Fatah or Syria and Israel settled among them, even if they desired it. The principal powerbroker and conflict multiplier is Iran and the mullah regime in Tehran. They want the destruction of Israel. Nothing less.

Syria, a broken state beyond its profitable terror industry driven by their Tehran masters, is wholly incapable of standing on its own two feet - even if the fantasy were to materialize that they actually desired peace.

Iran drives Hizballah and has, through Syria, completely re-armed the terrorist group (and more) since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon this summer. The current ongoing coup attempt in Lebanon is driven not by Lebanese Shi'a desires for it, but as yet another crisis that serves the Iranian regime while yet another UN Security Council deadline looms, just days away.

Iran drives (Sunni) Hamas, pumping it with weapons, explosives, ammunition and Merkava tank-killing Kornet rockets and maintaining consistent attacks into and upon Israel.

Iran drives Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (yes, another Sunni terrorist group funded by the Shi'a mullahcracy), coordinating the group's actions with Hizballah and Hamas attacks on Israel.

Iran drives Palestinian Islamic Jihad, co-ordinating the frequent supplier of suicide bombers' attacks with each of the above.

That is to say nothing of Iran's ongoing war with the United States within Iraq and Afghanistan, once again feeding both Shi'a and Sunni killers without prejudice.

And James Baker is going to solve the Arab-Israeli crisis through negotiations with Syria?

And, while Baker an others insist upon negotiating the non-negotiable, the enemy kills us without consequence in Iraq and elsewhere. And there remains the relentless criticism from DC's elected leaders, complete with clear demonstrations of strategic ignorance, including from the man many consider the new front runner for the Democrat presidential nomination. Barack Obama declared today that "It is time for us to fundamentally change our policy, it's time to give Iraqis their country back."

Give them their country back? Forget that this is a suggestion that we have stolen it from them rather than provide them with their first true free elections, regardless of the difficulties. But precisely whom does the would-be president intend to hand it over to? Iran? That would be the net effect, and the incalculable expansion of international terrorism with untold amounts of free-flowing Iraqi blood in the streets 'given back to them.'

That no one seems to stop and think about the Iraqi citizen is a source of national shame, whether some care to acknowledge it or not.

One last parting shot. Am I the only one that is just about sick and tired of hearing the DC talking-point phrase dujour of Bush's "escalation" in Iraq, especially with regard to Iran? Iran has been killing our boys for three years, and our belated acknowledgment is somehow the culprit and not a justifiable reaction to Iranian "escalation"?

They support the troops how, again?

I know that sounds a bit 'snarky', but it's been a long past 48 hours and I offer no apologies. Growing very tired of the self-defeating posture.

January 28, 2007

Just What is Eliot Spitzer Thinking?

Eliot Spitzer is the new Governor of New York. Yet, five years after the attacks of September 11th he now finds himself in the middle of a controversy created by one of his own campaign statements that he would allow immigrants to secure a New York State driver’s license without showing a valid and trackable Social Security card. Aside from the fact that this is in contradiction to the provisions of the Real ID Act of 2005 (“the Act”), the thought is incredible.

Now, even though the Act is now in dispute by a number of states, largely because of “privacy concerns” and the costs associated with adopting it, the provisions of the Act state that the minimum issuance standards are:

A) A photo identity document, except that a non-photo identity document is acceptable if it includes both the person's full legal name and date of birth.

B) Documentation showing the person's date of birth.

C) Proof of the person's social security account number or verification that the person is not eligible for a social security account number.

D) Documentation showing the person's name and address of principal residence.

Additionally, there is a concern that the new ID will become the defacto National ID card. Note that the link to the EPIC analysis, National ID Cards and REAL ID Act contains a lengthy list of references.

Still, Spitzer repeatedly, expressed support for the licensing of all New York drivers regardless of their immigration status and last week:

...immigrant advocacy groups met in Albany with David J. Swarts, the new motor vehicles commissioner, to press for new rules. They want the state to accept documents like foreign passports as proof of identity without also requiring a valid yearlong visa or other evidence of legal immigration status, a policy that state motor vehicles offices adopted in 2004.

This represents a good comparison of the two points of view on this issue (by the respective proponents): Immigrant advocates renew push for driver's licenses

Point: "This is an issue that has only grown in urgency with time," said Amy Sugimori, director of the New York City community organization La Fuente. Denied licenses, more immigrants will drive without insurance, she said, and police will lose a potential means to track their identity. Sugimori is part of a coalition holding a forum about the issue Feb. 3 in Manhattan. Spitzer and David Swartz, acting commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, are invited.

"We agree they do need to get secure identification documents from individuals, but we think they don't have to check immigration status in order to do that," she said. Some states allow foreign IDs as part of the application process.

Counterpoint: Opponents disagree, and are lobbying to keep driver's licenses away from people they regard as potential terrorists. They are bolstered by the federal Real ID Act taking effect next year, which orders states to deny driver's licenses to those who cannot prove legal immigration status.

"To think that we would put out the welcome mat to terrorists and illegal aliens five years after 9/11 is in my opinion, unconscionable," said Assemblyman Greg Ball, R-Carmel.

The question of whether or not there will be or should be a National ID card is a subject for another time, but could well be a moot point if the drivers licenses end up having uniform security features. Regardless, counterfeit documents continue to play a critical role in our Nation’s security and in our war against terrorism. At least 13 of the 19 September 11th hijackers carried counterfeit or forged drivers’ licenses. Making it easier for a potential terrorist to secure a real drivers license without confirmation of a Social Security number is a serious problem. Of course, when you examine the situation closely, it is still not impossible for a person with a forged birth certificate to get a social security card.

The question is why would Governor Spitzer consider easing the requirements for qualifying for a New York State driver’s license? The simple response of wanting to make it easier for immigrants to drive to work is not enough. "The facts show that restricting immigrants' access to drivers' licenses does nothing to improve security," a spokeswoman for Mr. Spitzer, Christine Anderson, told the Associated Press. "All it does is drive immigrants into the shadows, creating a class of people with no public records." That is not a good enough reason to start issuing an identity card to anyone who wants one. Even though Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill on the matter back in 2004, the subject is still being debated in California.

Ask yourself this question. What form of identity is used when checking in at the airport to get a boarding pass? Most people probably use their drivers license.

January 25, 2007

Space: The Iranian Missile Program's Big Test

Aviation Week is reporting that Iran is preparing to launch a Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) “soon.” While the potential to use the SLV for placing peaceful satellites into orbit is a possibility, the ability to weaponize such a capability is never far from the minds of most sensible analysts.

My first-hand knowledge is dated, but at one point in my career I spent a great deal of time watching a more capable and motivated nation attempt to achieve the same capability. The results tended to be disappointing for them and amusing to us. Despite having the best technology (stolen from the US) and some of the best minds (educated at our universities) more often than not the end result was a hole far from the intended target - or a fire on the gantry - than a successful flight. I understand that they’ve gotten better, though over a decade had to pass first.

As currently configured, an Iranian Shahab-3 can wreak havoc across the Persian Gulf. Properly modified into an ICBM (not outrageously different from an SLV) it could have an impact – literally and figuratively – almost anywhere between central Europe and western China. Current intelligence estimates suggest such a capability is possible inside of 10 years.

When the Shabab-3 was deployed in the late 90s, testing was not entirely successful, though subsequent launches have tended to go off with few hitches. Still, retrofitting an old design for the outer reaches of the atmosphere is unlikely to go off like clockwork. They could bring in outside help to assist; some reports indicate that the North Koreans are in Iran to help with nuclear tests, though sharing missile expertise is also a distinct possibility. Still the NoKos record in this field isn’t perfect.

If the launch is unsuccessful, we can expect a couple of things to happen; several Iranian rocket scientists will disappear, everyone in the Gulf region will breath a little easier, and they’ll step up research and testing to the point that current estimates will become very old very quickly. The urgency of the Iran problem will wane in the eyes of some as political hay is made about how far off they are from posing a threat to the homeland (ignoring the state-sponsored terrorism gorilla that is sitting in the corner).

If the launch is a success we can expect that our own timeline for action against Iran (and that of the Israelis) will be compressed. While there is a strong preference from this quarter for enhanced non-military support for anti-regime elements, Iran’s ability to rain “death from above” is likely to effectively end the nominal support for such work and stress a military response.

Religious Freedom Is China's Paper Dove

Even though China passed last year their Regulations on Religious Affairs - "regulations that state Chinese citizens have a constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religious belief" - China's persecution of worshipers - particularly Christians - is experiencing a crescendo rather than recess. Fred Stakelbeck has a detailed look at the situation.
In China’s Hebei province, the Catholic population has come under attack. In December, a Rome-based, Catholic news agency reported that nine priests of China’s underground Roman Catholic Church were arrested during Christmas prayer celebrations for meeting in a location not sanctioned by Beijing. Earlier, the brutal beating and hospitalization of several nuns by a group of local police officials and street thugs provided another example of how religious freedoms continue to suffer under the oppressive fist of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

In addition to the recent arrests and beatings, six Catholic bishops have either disappeared or been detained over the past several months. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was detained by state officials for not keeping activities such as the celebration of the Mass and distribution of sacraments more “discreet.” Christian religious training schools have been raided in Jiangxi province in an effort to discourage membership and the publication of religious literature such as Bibles and their possession have been strictly prohibited.

This month, the arrest of three female Christian church leaders in northeastern China by about 30 police officers and security officials from the government’s Religious Affairs Bureau for violation of the government’s policy of permitting worship only in official churches gained international attention. The three women were subsequently sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention and submitted to involuntary “re-education.” Taken collectively, these are not innocuous actions, rather, they point to a continued trend by Beijing to suppress and intimidate.
China's religious freedom illusory as Iran's electoral democracy. While Iran holds elections with candidates limited to those approved by the ruling mullahs in the Guardian Council, China professes religious freedom with worship only legal in state-approved centers.

While many Chinese military analysts have referred to the United States as a 'Paper Tiger,' religious freedom is clearly China's 'Paper Dove.'

Airline Security: Trimming the "No-Fly" List

How many people have been a “false positive” on the TSA’s no fly list and then inconvenienced? The purpose of the government’s “no-fly” list is to identify people considered too dangerous to be allowed on commercial flights. Apparently, thousands of people have been mistakenly linked to names on terror watch lists when they crossed the border, boarded commercial airliners or were stopped for traffic violations, a government report said Friday. TERRORIST WATCH LIST SCREENING - Efforts to Help Reduce Adverse Effects on the Public

Annually, millions of individuals—from international travelers to visa applicants—are screened for terrorism links against the watch list. At times, a person is misidentified because of name similarities, although the exact number is unknown. In some cases, agencies can verify the person is not a match by comparing birth dates or other data with watch list records, but agencies do not track the number. In other cases, they ask TSC for help. From December 2003 (when TSC began operations) to January 2006, agencies sent tens of thousands of names to TSC, and about half were misidentifications, according to TSC. While the total number of people misidentified may be substantial, it likely represents a fraction of all people screened. Even so, misidentifications can lead to delays, intensive questioning and searches, missed flights, or denied entry at the border. Misidentifications most commonly occur with names that are identical or similar to names on the watch list. To rapidly screen names against the watch list, agencies use computerized programs that account for differences due to misspellings and other variations. TSC has ongoing initiatives to improve computerized matching programs and the quality of watch list records. Also, CBP and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have established procedures designed to expedite frequently misidentified persons through screening, after confirming they are not on the watch list.

TSA chief Kip Hawley last week announced that his office would begin a comprehensive review of the watch list. At least half of the names on the list (estimated at between 50,000 and 350,000) are expected to be eliminated.

Hawley hopes that, if coupled to the emerging Secure Flight passenger screening program , the reduction of the list should make a difference.

There will still be passengers who feel “put upon” by the TSA and the no fly list. For this, the DHS has created a new program called the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program that will commence on February 20. This program will be the central processing point for all inquiries about Homeland Security agencies' databases.

According to Hawley, the TSA is doing a "name- by-name review"

The No Fly List aims to identify people considered too dangerous to be allowed on commercial flights. Another list, the Selectee List, cites people who need to undergo more vigorous security screening. That list also will be pared by about half.

The GAO Report is lengthy but among the observations is:

Annually, hundreds of millions of individuals—international travelers, airline passengers, and visa applicants—are screened against relevant portions of the Terrorist Screening Center’s consolidated watch list. The number of persons misidentified during terrorist watch list screening may be substantial in absolute terms but likely represents a small fraction of the total screenings. Nonetheless, misidentifications resulting from terrorist watch list screening can affect the respective individuals in various ways, with perhaps the most common situation involving delays and related inconveniences experienced by travelers.

These misidentifications will include people of similar names who are pulled aside because someone else is on the watch list. A clear example of this is Mrs. Catherine Stevens wife of Senator Ted Stevens, and the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, who is/was on the watch list. Take the case of Kiernan O'Dwyer a pilot for American Airlines . He is one of the many people who fall into the category of false positives because his name and birthday nearly match that of a leader of the Irish Republican Army. But because of this misidentification, he was stopped by Customs agents 80 times in the last three years. Even with a letter attesting to his identity, O’Dwyer continued to be stopped (agents claiming that the letter could have been a forgery), and gave up flying internationally.

Well, back in October, CBS Sixty Minutes did a segment on the watch list. Some of what they found is intriguing and maybe distressing:

· The list was 540 pages long;

· Before September 11th the list contained the names of 16 people. Today, there are over 44,000 with an additional 75,000 people listed as people who should be pulled aside for additional screening (these enormous numbers were explained simply as the list resulted from a massive “data dump” following September 11th);

· At that time, the names of most of the September 11th hijackers were on the list despite being dead for five years (the response being that just because a person was dead, it didn’t mean that their identity had also died with them – interesting point), and yet, such luminaries as Zacarias Moussaoui and Saddam Hussein were no where to be found;

· Some names of internationally notable people were on the list – the explanation being that there clearly might be other people with the same names. And the same holds for people who have the misfortune of sharing the same name with people who are correctly on the list (often because their name was used as an alias by a potential terrorist).

There will continue to be confusions. Recently the U.S. announced that it would keep Canadian Maher Arar on the no-fly list despite the Canadian government’s insistence that neither he nor his family are security risks.

Arar, a Canadian engineer, was detained in New York in 2002 and sent to Syria, where he was imprisoned for more than a year and tortured into making false confessions of terrorist involvement. He has become the best-known case of the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition, which involves sending a foreigner to a third country that is known to use torture.

So the debate continues. To a great degree the misidentification problem results from the multiple data bases that now exist, and then inability or unwillingness) to share information among various agencies or jurisdictions. On the one hand, you have American citizens, law abiding citizens at that, being inconvenienced or worse when traveling by airplane. Some are even being banned from flying as discussed. And yet, where do you draw the line when it comes to caution and safety of the flying public. I don’t travel enough by plane these days to worry too much about it. I opt for ultimate safety, screening and security when I, or one of my loved ones or friends is on a plane. I guess I might feel a bit differently if my name was “C. Stevens.”

January 21, 2007

Iran Soft-Posturing For Nuke Talks

The United Kingdom's Sunday Times is reporting that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini is considering removing Ahmadinejad and his current team from any representation of Iran on its nuclear program and replacing them with "a more moderate team for international negotiations on the supervision of its nuclear facilities."

The ‘Khameini’ move, if implemented, would come towards the end of the 60-day deadline the UN Security Council demanded for Iran’s cessation of uranium enrichment activities. It would also come after Khameini’s health has taken such a drastic turn that he was reported as being dead, which was immediately followed by a sudden move – claimed to be at the behest of the ailing Supreme Leader – of round criticism of Ahmadinejad in Iranian state-controlled newspapers and a directive to the Mejlis permitting them to draft a formal admonishment from the elected body.

All of this unusually robust activity while failing to meet with foreign visitors or customarily delivering Friday sermons.

Expect Europe, Russia and China to react within hours at the news of potentially renewed nuclear talks with Iran, perhaps even extending or otherwise circumventing the looming UN Security Council mandated enrichment cessation deadline, with ripple effects on every other dealing regarding Iran. Further anaylisis will be provided as this develops, and it most certainly will.

The nuclear crisis looks to once again serve to obscure the true nature of the threat from Iran for those who wish not to acknowledge it, much less address it.

It’s the terrorism, stupid.

In yesterday's commentary, Talk Iran's Walk: A Start, addressed was the fact that Iran walks the walk as the world’s foremost state sponsor of international terrorism, crossing sectarian lines and supporting terrorists of varying stripes, from Hizballah to al-Qaeda to Hamas and including killing American servicemen in Iraq.

The world will soon want to talk the talk of nuclear discussions with a newly sidelined menace in Ahmadinejad removed from the uncomfortable landscape.

If we are going to talk at all, we would be well advised to Talk Iran’s Walk rather than continue to ignore it, watching with seeming disinterest as more US soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines die at the hands of an aggressive enemy we prefer to relegate to the United Nations for discussion on a weapon that they do not yet even possess.

The weapons they do possess are killing us.

And everyone’s OK with this?

January 20, 2007

What's In A Surge?

Most misunderstand precisely what the 'surge' is in the president's strategy by assuming that it means new units for new deployments. In reality, it is earlier existing deployments in and delayed planned returns out. The Mudville Gazette details, unit by unit, the proper anatomy of 'The Surge.' And it started before President Bush made his announcement.

If that helped and served as the "Beginner's Guide to Getting Your Surge On," as Greyhawk coins it, you can keep up with the nitty-gritty details by regularly visiting MilBlogs, the headquarters of "Free speech from those who make it possible."

While on the topic of group blogs, if you find yourself interested in the above, then you also should then pay a visit to our friends at the Small Wars Journal Blog if you have not already. The blog is a new addition at Small Wars Journal and, like MilBlogs, is another group of warfighters sharing thoughts with the obvious focus on 'small wars' and the topic of counter-insurgency a regular discussion.

Another recommended stop - one I confess that I am only now beginning to make with regularity - is Jules Crittenden. At first glance, it appears a casual political blog. But look a bit deeper and one finds that the politics coverage is almost always within the context of how it relates to and effects US national security and the war effort in the current global conflict. That he calls it "Forward Movement" should serve as a guide as to what to expect.

When I find myself behind on events after a measure of down time, one of the best ways to ramp up on events of significance is to visit the many blogs such as these dedicated to covering and commenting of security-related news. Though it is surely incomplete and missing names and places of others who do excellent work, our RapidRecon blogroll is a pretty good jumping-off point.

The (Still) Developing Homeland Security Market

A question was asked a few months ago if a real market actually existed for homeland security focused products and technologies, or if it was entirely dependent on the government and more specifically the Department of Homeland Security, for its impetus. According to the January 10, 2007 report of the Homeland Security Research Corporation, the U.S. Homeland Security markets, driven by the government and private sectors, will grow approximately 50%, from $23.8 Billion in 2006 to $34.8 Billion by 2011 (assuming no new major terror attack). The private sector HLS market alone will grow from $4.8 Billion in 2007 to $6.7 Billion by 2011. The private sector is projected to be $28.5 Billion of HLS products and services are forecasted to be procured from the HLS industry during 2007-2011 by the private sector. These markets are analyzed and segmented by industry sector (e.g. banking & finance, chemical & HAZMAT, energy, water) and products/services category procured (e.g. perimeter protection systems, cyber terror security, biometric systems). Obviously, this is large enough and important enough for anyone’s attention.

One of the on-going debates is whether the risk-based approach to funding of new technologies (meaning funding established companies as opposed to smaller earlier stage companies) results in the desired solutions. There is also a discussion regarding the differences between first, second and third generation technologies, and their respective abilities to meet expectations and requirements.

As discussed in the Homeland Security Daily Newswire , quoting its director Bret Johnson, the Homeland Security and Entrepreneurship Center (HSIEC) at Northwestern University , says that the Homeland Security market is still developing and that certain technologies are more likely than others to receive funding support and reach the market. Specifically:

· Homeland security technologies that are close to deployment – This means that technologies that are not ready for market now or that require lengthy development will get less attention than those that either link to or complement existing systems

· Innovations which improve the security of critical infrastructure (transportation network; critical assets such as power, water, and food) but also have a dual/commercial benefit of providing operational efficiencies – These include software tools for emergency planning and response and those that apply to managing the operation of transportation systems

· Intelligence gathering, information analysis, and data analytics tools – These include the integration and connection of various sources of information and data for predictive modeling, threat analysis, and real time collaboration as well as new hardware for monitoring assets and information

· Products and services that enhance emergency preparedness, planning, and response for catastrophic threats including influenza epidemics and natural disasters – This includes the management of property and transportation assets and improving the interoperability of communications.

· Cybersecurity products that help improve the security of the nation's existing cyber infrastructure – This means a focus on identifying and assessing vulnerability and protecting the operation of telecommunication, banking, and finance, and large scale processing infrastructure assets

· Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives monitoring products – This includes sensors and detection devices that provide high reliability and quick detection or analysis.

All of this is a preface to a recently published report (November 2006) from the Civitas Group LLC, a strategic advisory and investment firm serving the homeland and national security markets. Civitas Group clients include Fortune 100 firms, leading security services providers, leading defense and information technology companies, early stage companies with promising technologies, and private investment firms. In a rapidly evolving homeland and national security industry, Civitas helps its clients build and implement successful strategies and grow their businesses.

This report is an update from the one issued in 2004. The focus here will be on the section that discusses the “dominant market characteristics” (of the homeland security market) outlining key issues about the homeland security market. Christian Beckner wrote about this report on Homeland Security Watch (I often refer to his site to learn about newly issued reports and gain his insight). However, please note that any use of the word “we” in this section refers to the Civitas Group.

These characteristics are (commentary mine):

1. Growth, Maturity and Expansion

The market is growing, according to Civitas, not only in the government sector, but also in the private area. The demand for homeland security related products results from the continued funding of innovation and adoption of new technologies through government contracts and funding, and through an expanding private sector. One important trend cited by Civitas was the emergence of second-generation products being introduced to meet end-user requirements. Another point of view on these second generation technologies (products) is that the first generation may not have met market expectations, and therefore many of the segments of the still emerging homeland security market may be penetrated by these second (or perhaps later, third) generation technology solutions.

2. Centrality of Government Policy

Clearly, the evolution of U.S. government policy influences major technological developments, “driving its growth and affecting critical issues related to standards, adoption cycles and spending in both the public and private sectors of the market.” The involvement of the federal government helps to promote market growth but also creates impediments (e.g., concerns over privacy and civil liberties, the potential for regulation, and lack of clarity on procurement policy).

3. Innovation

Since much of the current technology is not meeting expectations, there is a considerable amount of research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E). Largely, this is being funded by the U.S. government in programs of “Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), government research labs, and universities.” Civitas’ report then notes that the government funding also “provides direction to private entities about the priorities of the government, allowing them to align their own work with the public sector’s path.” The final observation here is that “Security requirements will drive further development and full acceptance and integration of once esoteric technologies, such as biometrics, data assessment engines and radio frequency identification (RFID).” It should be noted that both biometrics and RFIDs are still in the evolutionary stage, although some ascribe “panacea properties” to both.

4. Systems Integration

Both government and private sector end-users are seeking integrated systems over stand-alone products. This means that technologies from smaller companies are either integrated within a larger integrated system, or never even considered (if the companies involved are not, or cannot align themselves with the larger systems integrators). There is also a trend toward linking “traditional physical security tools and hardware with software based “logical” components.” Again, this trend favors the larger systems integrators, making it difficult for companies with products that “are difficult to integrate into larger solutions (e.g., providing products with proprietary, or non-standard data formats)” to compete.

5. Provider Consolidation

Large companies are continuing to acquire smaller and mid-sized companies that have technology, patents or market channels in intelligence and homeland security. Civitas projected an acceleration of this “roll-up” process when Defense Department budgets are reduced when (if) the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are resolved (from current events, this acceleration is probably a few years off). First-tier integrators will continue to search for second and third tier companies. This consolidation, however, “will bolster further venture and private equity investment in early stage security services and technology firms and result in a market increasingly defined by a number of large companies at the top, a large and vibrant pool of small, innovative companies, and fewer in the middle.”

6. Customer Fragmentation

Homeland security is said to be a “discipline of disciplines.” This presents a challenge to companies, large and small, especially those from the DoD market. The diffuse sales landscape requires companies to sell to customers of varying sizes, locations and needs. Much of the acquisition funding from the federal government is being pushed to the states and municipalities through a number of programs. Additionally, the commercial sector of the security market requires some companies with only government sales experience to retool their sales efforts and marketing programs.

While this trend affects the larger companies, often, the smaller and early stage companies are not in the position to compete for contracts without alliances with the large integrators. This requires a cultural change by both large and small players. The result is a possible downward pressure on pricing (local governments cannot afford much needed systems if priced for sale to the federal government), and implies market power for companies with established sales channels to the state and local levels.

7. Differentiation from the Defense Market

The characteristics of the end-user market differs from the traditional security or Defense Department customer:

· the homeland security market is focused on protecting a different constituency than defense

· operations and support (O&S) costs (and total cost of ownership) tend to be a leading consideration in homeland security.

· the average homeland security buyer does not have the logistics and support capabilities as in the military; the seller is therefore expected to have these capabilities

· often, the homeland market will trade performance for cost savings in a manner uncharacteristic of the defense market.

8. Expansion and Migration

Dual-use, or the ability to sell a product or technology to both government and commercial end-users, is more important than ever. In many ways, the ability to migrate applications from the government to commercial markets will influence eventual success of the suppliers. Examples are the interchangeability of technologies between military or border security with protection of critical infrastructure in the commercial sector, or the ability to take a homeland security-centric technology and apply it to the intelligence or defense areas. This “transfer of technology” might also be possible from homeland security to medical or pharmaceutical applications (think biological agent attacks and sensors).

9. Operational Centrality

Since September 11th, businesses have become increasingly sensitive to the questions of security in general. Issues like physical security, access control, identification of authorized individuals, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and disaster recovery are all more important. For example, data back-up today means much more than keeping a copy of your files on a CD or external hard drive. In fact, it means much more than having an off-site data resource. Think redundancy.

The Civitas report is only 36 pages long and can easily be read. These are some of the points raised that, in their opinions, will determine the evolution of the market for homeland security related technologies.

Indecisiveness: Insulating The Enemy From Defeat

With the arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr's top operatives, most significantly including Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, another spokesman for al-Sadr stated the overtly clear as if it were a conspiracy secretly hatched in a smoky Washington strategy session. Abdul Mahdi Mtiri, an operative seemingly afforded credibility because he is a member of Sadr's 'political committee,' declared that the US wants a confrontation with al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

"We know the truth behind this arrest is the Americans want to target the Sadrists and they want to draw the Sadrists into a confrontation with the American troops."

But the operations and arrests are part of the American plan to neutralize the militia publicly announced to the world on international airwaves by the President of the United States barely a week ago, not in secret communiqués between Washington and Baghdad.

But the plan's success relies on one of two things, assuming US forces are properly deployed with adequate rules of engagement:

A.) The full cooperation of an Iraqi government - particularly its Prime Minister - that has protected al-Sadr to-date, or

B.) American disregard of said government if not cooperative.

Within this single Reuters report, there are clear indications of the Iraqi government's hesitance and hedging on the issue of open confrontation with al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army.

While Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh has said publicly that the US operations have had the 'full backing of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki,' Sadr's Abdul Mahdi Mtiri said that 'Iraqi officials' had promised that the arrested Sadr spokeman and key operative Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji would be released. He also said, "We don't know how serious this promise is because so far he has not been released."

Rather than state that no such promise exists, displaying the Iraqi government's 'full backing' of the operation(s), Iraq's government spokesman al-Dabbagh deflected responsibility to the Americans, saying "The matter is not in the hands of the Iraqi government. The Americans arrested him and they're investigating him and when they're finished they will release him."

Additionally troubling, al-Dabbagh suggested that the capture of Darraji was "not against the Sadrists" 'as a political movement,' but merely for security concerns. This indicates a willingness to see the Iraqi 'Hamasification' of the Sadr militia, another terrorist band of thugs afforded the perception of legitimacy through the front of political participation. Legitimacy - especially in a budding democracy - requires that the two be mutually exclusive.

In order to achieve victory through the ensuing 'surge' of manpower and operations, the United States must either achieve the full support of the entangled Iraqi government against al-Sadr's deadly Tehran-backed militia (et al) or be prepared to disregard it, thus admitting its inability to govern a non-partitioned, whole Iraqi state.

To be sure, there are many moving parts to consider; interconnected, overlapping and often mutually reinforcing. Rather than apply the matrix offered to resulting decisions, more often than not the complex matrix appears to have frozen that process altogether.

The trap of nuance is an indecisiveness that leads to the static conditions which insulate the enemy from defeat. Witness the past year, ar-Ramadi in particular, where the Marines have long been left with enough manpower to hold but not nearly enough to rout an al-Qaeda and insurgent enemy that continues to breathe.

The first decision lies at the feet of that Iraqi government and its leaders. The American leadership must be prepared to then make a difficult decision that is centered on defeating the enemy rather than on establishing the current Iraqi government's primacy.

January 18, 2007

Iraqi FM Pledges Release of US-Held Iranians

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has pledged to Iran that Iraq will ensure the release of five Iranians the US is holding. The Iraqi Kurd has criticized the US raid on an Iranian office in Irbil and the detention of 5 Iranians linked to the IRGC's Qods Force since the event happened late last week.

Tehran denied the five detained Iranians had been involved in financing and arming insurgents in Iraq.

"The capture of Iranian diplomats is an insult to the Iraqi government and people," ambassador Hassan Kazimi Qomi said in a news conference at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. Iraqi "Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told me that they will be released within days."

Asked why he believed the Americans carried the raid, Qomi said through a translator from Farsi to Arabic that "they want to destabilize relations between Iraq and Iran."

While Zebari states that the United States clearly and openly seeks to "destabilize relations between Iraq and Iran" the evidence shows that Iran has been fueling both sides of the rising sectarian violence - arming, funding and coordinating with both al-Qaeda in Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Iraqi politicians who defend Iran and seek to have members of their Qods Force released under the guise of diplomatic status should be looked at with much scrutiny.

January 14, 2007

Iraq For Land?

With the impetus provided by the Iraq Study Group, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab states will also seek to link help on stabilizing Iraq to the Israel-Palestinian crisis when Secretary of State Rice meets with Arab foreign ministers in Kuwait this week.

Moderate Arab governments plan to tell Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice they will help Washington stabilize Iraq if the U.S. takes more active steps to revive a broad peace initiative between Israel and its neighbors, Arab officials and media said Sunday.

The deal, dubbed “Iraq for Land,” is expected to be proposed during a meeting between Rice and her counterparts from eight Arab countries in Kuwait on Tuesday.

Many of these nations have complained about the situation in Iraq in the past and lamented its implications throughout the Middle East. It appears they have been quite capable of participating further in assisting Iraq and this new move may well rightly offend Iraqi and American leaders.

January 13, 2007

November 17 Group Claims Embassy Attack

When news broke regarding the attack on the US Embassy in Athens, Greece, ThreatsWatch immediately directed readers' attention to the November 17 group, also known as the Revolutionary Struggle and the Revolutionary People's Struggle, a Greek leftist guerilla organization with a history of terrorist attacks inside Greece. Though the Greek government officially has considered the group 'disbanded' since 2002, they have clearly not abandon their cause.

News today indicates that Greek authorities have received two phone calls from November 17 claiming responsibility for the RPG attack.

Greek authorities blamed domestic militant groups that have carried out bombings against police and government buildings despite a crackdown on terrorism before the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Police are examining the authenticity of two calls taking responsibility from the group Revolutionary Struggle, which has carried out six bombings since 2003. The shadowy group criticized the United States in past statements, citing treatment of prisoners at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

While the Greek government has ‘disbanded’ November 17 – and should be commended for their counterterrorism efforts - it is one thing to eradicate its banner, but quite another matter to neutralize the guiding ideology.

Note: Whether or not the Revolutionary Struggle is actually comprised of former November 17 members is a point of contention among many. However, noting that the group now known as the 'Revolutionary (People's) Struggle' emerged onto the scene in 2003, only after the disbanding to the November 17 group, and has taken on much the same persona and bombing tactics, it is highly unlikely that the group is not lead by or significantly comprised of former November 17 terrorists. Events from the late 1990's observed on a timeline are nearly seamless, and indicate little more than a name change on a chart.

January 12, 2007

Marketing America: Bridging the European Divide

From the unexpected source of a weekly marketing column appearing at Forbes.com called 'Unsolicited Advice,' two top business marketers offer target audience-centric recommendations on Restoring America's Image in Europe. Marc E. Babej and Tim Pollak offer sage advice to American politicians, and perhaps in a far deeper manner than simply repairing the current divide between the United States and Europe.

As far as bridging that gap is concerned, while noting that the center of political gravity for European populations is certainly left of that for America, they also note that most European reaction is far more Bush-centric than America-centric. They also recognize that a "slick new slogan won't repair things."
The best strategy is to turn one of our biggest disadvantages--our deep internal divisions--into an asset.

European societies are also deeply divided over some of the same issues: immigration and integration, strategies to fight terror, the balance between protection and privacy, to name a few. What sets the U.S. apart is how we deal with them: with open debate, without restrictions on ethnic and religious customs, without the rise of xenophobic political movements.

America has a worthy message and an urgent need to get this message heard. Paid media would be an essential component given the less-than-friendly treatment of the U.S. by much of the European press.

Here’s a start on a game plan:

First, coalesce around a clear, achievable objective: to promote a more positive image of the United States -not the U.S. government. Whether we like it or not, the current administration is toxic in Europe. Rather than waste time and resources trying to redeem an executive team that will be out of office in two years, place the focus on the country. This is a time for politicians from all sides to walk the talk and put the nation's interests first.
From the minds of two of Manhattan's top business marketers attempting to address the US-European divide, that same sage ('Unsolicited') advice is perhaps even more valuable when applied in a purely domestic sense. For without even pause for deeper consideration, it is most certainly "time for politicians from all sides to walk the talk and put the nation's interests first" not just to bridge the gap between us and our trans-Atlantic cousins, but to truly put our nation's interest first and thus begin to bridge the divide between the seemingly self-isolated Washington body politic and the rest of the nation that depends on their elected application of judgment.

Marc Babej, founder of the New York City marketing strategy firm Reason Inc., is a good friend who recently became an American citizen. Fewer could possibly have been happier for him than I, and Marc’s own excitement should be bottled and distributed to those who have lost sight of what a special and uniquely free nation ours is.

The ideas and aspects that separate us from our European cousins are not nearly as numerous as the values and traditions that will forever bind us.

So when the native-German, now one of America's newest and proudest citizens, speaks of how to communicate and connect with our European cousins, perhaps we should all take note.

Defeating al-Qaeda in Somalia

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross considers some of the factors that will determine the answer to the question, Will the U.S. Win in Somalia?

One factor that will determine whether the ICU successfully launches an insurgency in the near future is the scope of the losses it suffers on the battlefield now. Military intelligence analysts feel that the ICU will bounce back unless a significant portion of its fighters are killed or captured. There appears to be an important opportunity at present: a large number of ICU fighters are massed in Ras Kamboni, a coastal town near the Kenyan border where they appear to have gone to regroup.

The ICU Islamists have dug in by the sea at the southern village of Ras Kamboni, the focus of the latest American, Somali and Ethiopian strikes. Somali Defense Minister Colonel Barre "Hirale" Aden Shire said last week, "They have dug huge trenches around Ras Kamboni but have only two options: to drown in the sea or to fight and die." Ras Kamboni has been known as "Fortress Baghdad" and, according to a military intelligence source, is believed to hold few or no civilians since the al-Qaeda-aligned ICU Islamists retreated there and drew initial fire.

As Gartenstein-Ross illustrates, the successful, functional survival of al-Qaeda in the Somali theater can be measured by the degree of success to which it can rapidly mount an insurgency. This capability will be determined in the very short-term by the level of success the American, Ethiopian and Somali forces are able to destroy in place al-Qaeda's remaining core, much of which is holed up in Ras Kamboni.

If there are indeed few or no civilians remaining, it may well be nearly a free-fire zone, truly leaving al-Qaeda the lonely choice to "drown in the sea or to fight and die" at Ras Kamboni.

The greater challenge will be preventing al-Qaeda from replenishing its stock of human resources over time in Somalia and the greater Horn of Africa.

US Embassy in Greece Attacked

Shortly before 6:00am local time, there was an explosion at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece. Fired from the street and over a ten-foot security wall, officials are promptly calling it an act of terrorism. Local police chief Asimakis Golfis said, "There was a shell that exploded in the toilets of the building ... It was fired from street level." [See Update below: Rocket fire from another building struck the third floor of the embassy.]

There is speculation as to what was fired or thrown into the compound, including the possibility that it was an RPG. No one was hurt in the early morning attack.

The attack may be in response to President Bush's speech Wednesday night announcing plans to send more troops to Iraq. The most notorious Greek guerrilla group was the November 17 group, also known as the Revolutionary People’s Struggle, which the Greek government says was disbanded in 2002. However, on November 17 of last year, Greek riot police fired tear gas to break up a crowd of thousands of rioters in front of the US embassy that was throwing stones and chanting slogans such as "Bush the butcher, out of Iraq" and "The USA is the real terrorist."

Under whatever banner today, if any, it could likely be the work of the same individuals who found their leftist group disbanded.

UPDATE: The New York Times includes a quote indicating that it was indeed a rocket attack launched from a nearby building.

“This was a rocket attack launched from a building across the street,” a senior police official told Reuters. “It landed inside a toilet on the third floor of the embassy.”

January 11, 2007

Leaning Forward In Iraq and the Global Conflict

Last night, President Bush delivered to the nation and the world a plan for Iraq that indicates a resumption of a forward-leaning American posture in Iraq and, by extension, in the global conflict before us. Before that call, ThreatsWatch participated in a conference call with White House press secretary Tony Snow and the Iraq Director for the president’s National Security Council, Brett McGurk.

Others participated as well and many excellent questions were asked. Participants included Wizbang, The Truth Laid Bear, RedState, Right Wing News, Austin Bay, Dean's World, Winds of Change, Power Line and others as well. Austin Bay put together a fairly comprehensive summary of the items discussed including some of his accompanying commentary at Pajamas Media and the full audio of the Q & A session has been generously provided by Robert Bluey of Human Events, another participant. We thank David Almacy, Internet and E-Communications Director for the White House, Tony Snow and Brett McGurk for providing such access and the opportunity to pose questions directly.

A full ThreatsWatch analysis of President Bush's new plan will be published shortly as well as additional commentary in the coming days. In the immediate, a brief reaction for our readers is due.

As I said in a radio interview last night: All debatable specifics aside, the overall tone of the president's speech and the general posture of his "New Way Forward" in Iraq is a much welcomed change. For many months it has seemed the US policy has been to primarily lean back on our heels and play defense, largely reacting to enemy strikes. We have been playing defense against a shadowy insurgent and terrorist enemy while ceding the initiative to the likes of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr. This simply will not do.

Defense may win Super Bowls, but it will never win wars. It can only prevent them and preserve the absence of open hostilities through deterrence.

To that end, there can be no mistaking the forward-leaning new direction in Iraq and elsewhere going forward. Within the context of the very aggressive ongoing operations in Diyala province north of Baghdad, the capture today yet six more Iranians – this time in Irbil – and even the successful violence brought directly to al-Qaeda terrorists in southern Somalia, there is little room for debate that the president is shifting gears and turning loose the dogs of war against those who have or aim to kill Americans.

It must be understood by the American public that much of the world and its various governments and organizations will never openly support aggressive American action abroad. Likely among those killed in the American airstrikes on al-Qaeda in southern Somalia was one of the leaders of the 1998 simultaneous bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Even with that news, the United Nations, the European Union and others criticized the action and “expressed concern” of the rising violence.

Al-Qaeda and aligned movements (AQAM), Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, the Iranian regime and other terrorist groups remain undeterred and unfazed by diplomatic decree and international negotiations. They must be defeated in the language they choose to speak: Violence and death. To fail to do so is to invite their violence and the deaths of our own, defended primarily with ineffectual noble decrees and ‘strongly worded statements’ that are seen by these enemies as a weakness in our character.

Within this context, ThreatsWatch welcomes the current shift afoot in our prosecution of a conflict. It is a conflict for which we did not ask. It remains one in which we must engage fully.

The consequences of our failure to do so will not be paid for by us, but by our children.

January 10, 2007

Hear Steve Schippert on the Radio

After President Bush addresses the nation tonight, Steve Schippert is expected to join Jack Riccardi on KTSA radio. It is currently expected to be at (Update-->) 10:20PM Eastern tonight after the President concludes his remarks.

To listen via the Internet click here.

January 9, 2007

Main Street Fallujah

How long will it be before the first Iraq-caliber IED is employed in the United States?

William Lind doesn't set a timetable in this Counterpunch article, but he's almost positive it'll happen. I suggested as much during a recent public appearance where fall-out from the war in Iraq was discussed, though both Lind and I were looking at different sets of perpetrators and victims. In the case of the former it was criminals vs. the cops, for me it was terrorists vs. you and me. I don't know that anyone was thinking that we might have to watch Muslim-on-Muslim violence play out in our own home towns, as this story in Detroit indicates.

Late Saturday night, 12 Muslim businesses and mosques were vandalized, with 11 of the 12 belonging to members of the Detroit Shi'a population. None of the targeted buildings were owned by Irai-American Christians or members of the Lebanese community. It is suspected that the atacks were in retaliation to the celebrations seen in the streets at the news of Saddam Hussein's execution. While so far there have been no Shi'a reprisal attacks on Sunni businesses and mosques, it is a realistic fear among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The potential for more deadly attacks certainly exists if such tension escalates.

At a practical/functional level, IEDs in America are a reality. The raw materials for basic models are readily available in bulk and that high-end designs can be produced with tools that any well stocked Sears can provide. Disused artillery shells are fairly rare in this country, but there is no shortage of small arms ammunition, blackpowder or any number of other formulas that could suffice as a suitable charge.

As far as placement goes anyone tracking developments in Iraq knows that vehicles are the target of choice and this is probably the car-friendly nation. Drive home tonight and glance over at the side of the road for all the seemingly innocent items that could be used to hide a shaped charge. Targeting specific businesses or homes is obviously a very real possibility and most homes don't have a "green zone" to protect them from explosive violence.

If domestic sectarian violence is the forum for use then deployment should be fairly narrowly focused in certain neighborhoods of cities with a large Muslim population, but attacks against Muslims would only be the start. The earliest attacks would undoubtedly result in a massive surge of law enforcement (certainly local but assuredly federal – with a Guard presence to boot) and the focus of such weapons would not be restricted to Muslims for long.

January 7, 2007

Drugs, Terrorism and Illegal Immigration

We live in a dangerous world in which the past is now blending with the present, and possibly influencing the future. The past is the pervasive problem of the importation of illegal narcotics into this country, much of it flowing across the U.S.-Mexican border. The present is the attention paid to the problem of illegal immigration and the connection between illegal immigration and terrorism. The future may well find us with a federal immigration policy that allows illegal aliens to work here a “guests.”

As expressed in Michael Cutler’s post on the Counterterrorism Blog from January 3rd, the question is whether our government will ever be able to see the linkage between the worlds of illegal narcotics, illegal immigration and the expansion terrorism. Frankly, that linkage has been apparent for more than a decade.

In Links Between Terrorism, Drug Trade, and Illegal Immigration Can't Be Ignored and referring to another article in the Daily Bulletin, Mr. Cutler writes:

“…our nation's failure to secure its borders and create an immigration system that possesses true integrity imperils nothing less than the security of our nation and the survival of our citizens… "The bureaucrats don't understand what a dangerous game they are playing with American lives if they don't do something to fix the situation at the border." “Evidence of 'special-interest aliens' using the Mexican border to gain entry to the United States has been kept secret from the American public, according to federal law enforcement agents, terrorism experts and critics of U.S. foreign policy with Mexico... According to DEA intelligence reports, the link between terrorism and narcotics has been well known since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

In another quote from the Daily Bulletin article Links between illegal immigration, terrorism, drug trade worry U.S officials: "Those interviewed by the Daily Bulletin say agencies including the FBI and CIA are not using information from Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration agents to make connections between the drug trade, illegal immigration and terrorist organizations."

Also, a few weeks ago, there was a lot of publicity about the ICE raids of the Swift Meat Packing Plants and the link between illegal immigration and identity theft. These issues are “joined at the hip.” The linkage of illegal immigration with identity theft seemingly hit the national consciousness a couple of weeks ago when there were raids on six meat-packing plants. In that situation, it was found that many of the illegal workers held forged or counterfeit identity papers.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with search warrants entered plants owned by Swift & Co., of Greeley, Colo., charging that "large numbers" of workers illegally assumed the identities of U.S. citizens or legal residents by using their Social Security numbers to get work, ICE officials said.

The Swift Meat Packing plant raids are not the first time illegal immigrants have been found with forged identity documents. This has been going on for over a decade, as written in the Washington Post article that also referenced a 1998 raids in Nebraska in which the government found that “nearly 20 percent of workers had invalid documents. The vast majority disappeared before questioning.”

So, which came first? The drug smugglers, the illegal aliens or the terrorists? It is hard to say when it comes to aliens and drug smugglers. But the connection between drug smuggling and terrorism is not new either. To an extent, none of this is a surprise. Having had the opportunity to attend and present at a number of Office of National Drug Control Policy symposia and listening carefully to presentations by various Defense Department or U.S. Customs officials, it was clear even in the mid-1990’s that there was a direct connection between the two “counters.”

In May 2002, I was interviewed for an article in the MIT Technology Review discussing the cross over between counter-drug and counter-terrorism technologies in which I asked the question, "Isn't there a fairly strong feeling that narcotics in this country is a terrorist activity?"

Not too surprisingly that position was contradicted by Brian Houghton, director of research for the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, who said, “Yes and no, says Houghton, who cautions against drawing too many parallels, or assuming that knowledge in one area bequeaths expertise in the other. "There are similarities, but [drug trafficking and terrorism] are two different things," he says. "Where they start to go apart is that drugs are such an epidemic. If all drug dealers and cartels were terrorist organizations we'd be in big trouble."

Well, we are in big trouble as Houghton commented. In the passage of just four years since the interview with the Technology Review, we have seen the linkage between illegal immigration and the drug cartels on Mexico. We have also witnessed the numerous flare-ups in violence along the United States border with Mexico, especially in places like Nuevo Laredo, where drug lords or their gangs kidnap Americans and murder law enforcement agents. We have seen the linkage of illegal immigration with illegal or forged identity papers. In addition, we see and read about the growing number of non-Mexican immigrants, many of who overstay their Visas and get lost in the blended society of the United States.

Much like Miguel Alfonso Salinas who was first thought to be a Mexican migrant but who turned out to be Ayman Sulmane Kamal, a Muslim born in Egypt - a country designated as "special-interest" by the United States for sponsoring terrorism – it would be unrealistic to think that others are not also here under false pretenses. Whether you call it “guest worker” or “amnesty” the result of such policies is the widening of our open borders. We are already at risk. Why the federal government would countenance an idea that would increase that risk is simply incredulous.

January 4, 2007

Ayatollah Khameini Is Dead

Michael Ledeen is reporting that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini, is dead.

He had been in poor health for some time, which was what made the recent elections so crucial to the Ahmadinejad/Ayatollah Yazdi circle of apocalyptic Hojjatieh believers. They sought to win control of the Guardian Council, now tasked with nominating and electing the next Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its ultimate authority. They failed, but had hoped to be in a position to insert Ayatollah Yazdi as Iran’s Supreme Leader, believed by many in order to hasten the return of the 12th Imam by creating the believed preconditions for his return: Warfare, chaos, bloodletting and death untold in the history of civilization.

Who will now emerge as the front-runner among the competitors will be evident very shortly. While it will likely not be Ayatollah Yazdi, it most assuredly will not be a friend of the United States or the West, though the individual can be predictably expected to be touted for his 'moderate' tendancies.

Welcome Michael Tanji

We would like to welcome Michael Tanji as the newest contributing member of ThreatsWatch. We are also quite pleased to announce Michael’s role as a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Threat Awareness. With this announcement, Michael Tanji may be new to some ThreatsWatch readers, but behind the published scenes, we have been working very closely with him for several months developing new ideas and most recently contributing substantially to the soon to be published report - Achieving Victory in Iraq.

Michael brings a valuable mix of experience to the table and remains driven by an overriding concern for America’s national security. Previously a supervisory intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, he is also a veteran of the United States Army, where he served in a military intelligence role. During his tenure in the intelligence community he developed a broad base of expertise in fields as diverse as information security, signal analysis, computer forensics, and indications and warning. He was also a contributor to analytic efforts of the National Intelligence Council and working-level policy efforts of the National Security Council. More recently he has spoken about intelligence issues at the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, and has contributed articles about intelligence-related issues to The Weekly Standard.

Michael Tanji is an associate of the Terrorism Research Center and an assistant professorial lecturer at The George Washington University. He also manages his own site, Haft of the Spear, as well as a membership in the intelligence community group blog, Group Intel.

We hope that ThreatsWatch readers will join us in welcoming Michael’s valuable seen and unseen contributions to ThreatsWatch and the Center for Threat Awareness..

Evidence: Iran Supporting al-Qaeda in Iraq

Excellent reporting by The New York Sun's Eli Lake exposes that not only were Iranian senior members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps captured in Baghdad - and released due to diplomatic papers supplied them by the Iranian government - what was not turned back over to them were important documents detailing connections to individuals that are part of al-Qaeda in Iraq and associated with Ansar al-Sunna. In Iran's Secret Plan For Mayhem, it is learned that this detailed information included names and phone numbers.
Iran is supporting both Sunni and Shiite terrorists in the Iraqi civil war, according to secret Iranian documents captured by Americans in Iraq.

The news that American forces had captured Iranians in Iraq was widely reported last month, but less well known is that the Iranians were carrying documents that offered Americans insight into Iranian activities in Iraq.

An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms "that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups." The source was careful to stress that the Iranian plans do not extend to cooperation with Baathist groups fighting the government in Baghdad, and said the documents rather show how the Quds Force — the arm of Iran's revolutionary guard that supports Shiite Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads — is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna.

Another American official who has seen the summaries of the reporting affiliated with the arrests said it comprised a "smoking gun." "We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to," the official said.
Contrary to the Iraq Study Group's assertion that a stable Iraq is in Iran's interests, what is now evidenced is tangible proof that Iran sees its interest as killing US forces and fostering Iraq's instability through inciting and fomenting sectarian violence by fueling both sides.

This destabilizes the freely elected Iraqi government and, chiefly through frenzied media coverage of the violence Iran stirs, serves to erode US domestic support for action against the jihadiyun in Iraq today and elsewhere in the Middle East in the future.

Of the American forces killed in Iraq by insurgent roadside bombs, perhaps tallying and communicating the ratio that were killed by Iranian-made and -supplied armor-piercing precision milled shaped copper high-explosive IED's would serve to alert Americans to the true nature of the Iranian threat. Perhaps tallying the number of Iraqi civilians that have been killed by al-Qaeda in Iraq's signature car and truck bombs packed with other Iranian supplied explosives (directly or through funding) would serve the same proper purpose.

Or rather, perhaps another story of the Iranian nuclear weapons program that has yet to realize its goals to imply instead that the Iranian threat is not really imminent.

As Michael Ledeen once said in his signature curmudgeonly eloquence, "It's the terrorism, stupid."

The principal theater in the epic conflict that defines our time and will ultimately define this generation resides not in the streets of Iraq nor in the mountains of Afghanistan, but in the capital of the vast Islamist state that lies between them.

We as a nation have simply not arrived there yet - neither emotionally, psychologically or physically. Short of an internal revolt by the Iranian people - with or without our dutiful and proper support - our impending approach to the epicenter of this conflict is inevitable.

January 2, 2007

Ethiopia, Somalia Seek Regional Assistance

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi called for foreign peacekeepers in Somalia, stressing that his country could not afford to maintain the operation indefinitely. Speaking to Ethiopia’s parliament, he said, "We will now leave as soon as possible, it could be weeks, it could be months. We don't have the money to take this burden individually." Meles has a long standing personal rivalry with Sheikh Aweys and other members of the Islamic Courts Union, stemming back to Aweys’ al-Ittihad al-Islamiya terrorist group’s attacks on the Ethiopian government in the mid 1990’s. While quite true that Ethiopia is ill-equipped financially to endure a protracted deployment and operations, his plea for international support is as grounded in hopes for financial aid (principally American) to allow him to pursue Aweys with his own forces as it is in a desire for additional international troops to shoulder the extended burden in Somalia.

In the near term, the Transitional Federal Government is reportedly announcing the re-opening of the Mogadishu airport Wednesday.

Somali President Abdillahi Yusuf met with Kenya's Internal Security minister John Michuki in Mumbassa, Kenya, to discuss the Somali request that its southern neighbor seal its border to prevent the retreating ICU fighters from seeking refuge there. Kenya has reportedly arrested eight Islamists in retreat, among them an Ethiopian with a Canadian passport who is said to be a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, an Ethiopian terrorist group sympathetic to the ICU Islamist movement.

The report, originally printed in Kenya's The East African Standard newspaper, also noted that many of the Islamist fighters seeking entry into Kenya are "Somali Kenyans" that were recruited by the ICU to join the fighting for control of Somalia who are now seeking to return to their Kenyan homes.

In a bit of an odd and unconfirmed development, Garowe Online reported that Hussein Aideed, the TFG interior minister and son of the killed Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed, spoke to Mogadishu clan leaders in a meeting and informed them that Somalia and Ethiopia were going to merge into one country under one government with one unified military force. Aideed was quoted as saying that "The two countries [Somalia and Ethiopia] are brothers and share a similar political agenda."

It is important to note that no other developments support this assertion, even tangentially, especially considering Ethiopia's statements of its plans to withdraw its forces within "weeks, perhaps months."

Solving Israeli-Palestinian Crisis No Magic Bullet

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman reacted strongly and directly to the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's statement that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to peace throughout the Middle East. Lieberman offered bluntly that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won't stop Iran, the key player in terrorism throughout the region.

Lieberman read in Tuesday's Jerusalem Post that in an interview with the South Korean Hankyoreh newspaper, Ki-Moon followed the lead of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, by focusing on "Palestine."

"If the issues with the conflicts between Israel and Palestine go well, [resolutions of] other issues in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Syria, are likely to follow suit. I will meet with the concerned parties as soon as possible," Ban said in an interview posted on Hankyoreh's English Web site.

Lieberman said he found himself "deeply concerned" by Ki-Moon's premise that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would prompt resolution of the Iranian threat.

"I have never heard Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad call for territorial compromises from Israel, but rather for the total and unconditional annihilation of the Jewish State," Lieberman wrote. "I have never heard Mahmoud Ahmadinejad call for negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, yet I have heard his repeated calls for wiping Israel off the map. Ahmadinejad's vision for a 'new Middle East' is one devoid of a Jewish State or any Jews at all."

He went on to say that "If [Iran is] allowed to achieve nuclear weapons, the entire free world will pay a heavy price - Israel will be the first, and will pay the heaviest price, but Iranian aggressiveness will not stop there."

Perhaps Lieberman should have stopped there. He went on to call for the Secretary General to immediately revoke Iran's membership to the United Nations, a move surely to cause more deaf ears among the world body than would have perhaps otherwise been the case. Perhaps.

  • AudioFebruary 2, 2010
    [Listen Here]
    What on Earth can Usama bin Laden, the mystical calculus of climate change and US Homeland Security have in common? Does bin Laden really agree with the President of the United States on matters weather? How is it that the...

Special Reports

Recent Features